Friday, July 19, 2013

Another Look at the Jaredite Barges Part III

Continuing from the last post on the Jaredite barges, the question then arises, what kind of barges were the ones the Jaredites built? In order to understand this, we need to know what the word barge meant, especially in 1829 when Joseph Smith translated the Ether record into English. The English being used in New England, of which Joseph Smith was most familiar.
The word barge meant: “a flat-bottomed vessel of burthen, or loading and unloading,” and “burthen” means the same as burden, “to load, to lay on a heavy load, to encumber with weight.”
Left: A small unloaded barge; Right: A small loaded barge. Neither vessel is self-propelled and has to be either pushed or pulled across the water
Barges come in all sizes, with today’s barges being pulled or pushed up the rivers, some larger than aircraft carriers, many tied side by side.
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods, and are pushed or pulled by towboats, while canal barges are usually towed by draft animals on an adjacent towpath, like the early barges were pulled up and down the Erie Canal in the northeastern United States, until the railroads made canal towing unprofitable. On rivers, barges come in all size, with today’s barges being pulled or pushed up the rivers, some larger than aircraft carriers, many tied side by side, and one towboat capable of often pushing a dozen barges at one time.
Top: A large, loaded barge being pulled by a boat along the river; Bottom: A large, loaded barge being pushed up river by another boat
In addition, barges are used for both work platforms, or hauling things, like rubbish and trash out to sea for dumping. As stated earlier, the original meaning of barge was to carry burdens, loading and unloading, and transporting goods from ship to shore.
Top a track hoe on a work barge dredging (deepening) the Mississippi River; Bottom: A hopper garbage barge, hauling trash out to sea for dumping
In terms of the Jaredite circumstances, for “they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord” (Ether 2:6). What did they load onto the barges? People, flocks of animals of every kind (Ether 1:41), “fowls of the air,” “fish of the waters,” “honey bees,” “seeds of every kind,” and “all manner of that which was on the face of the land” (Ether 2:2-3). They also would have had whatever belongings they carried with them, including tents (Ether 2:13), clothes, tools (to build the barges and later plant the seeds), food for themselves and feed for the animals (Ether 6:4), and some type of cooking and eating utensils (pots, pans), and implements to till the earth (Ether 6:13).
The first barges the Jaredites built were to cross many waters. Most Theorists translate that to mean where large ice flows melted across Asia, based on Hugh Nibley’s beliefs of an eastern journey across the Steppes and China to the Pacific Ocean. The problem with that is ice flows, lakes, etc., can be traveled around as easily as building barges every time a water source was encountered.
In addition, though “many waters” is typically interpreted by Theorists as man different areas of water, the term in the scripture usually refers to water that is singularly connected. Lehi named the water they encountered at Bountiful Irreantum, meaning “many waters.” That many waters included a continual ocean, encompassing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, Pacific Ocean, etc. One body of water divided into separate area terms, but all connected.
A singular place with such a condensed water area where barges would be needed to cross would be the correct interpretation of Ether’s words. As an example, such an area exists in the Mesopotamia wetland area in what is now southern Iraq, and is the largest wetland ecosystem in all of Western Eurasia, made up of three adjacent and connected marshlands called the Central, Jawizeh and Hammar Marshes.
In this area for millennia, the Marsh Arabs have used “barges” to carry them throughout their “lands,” situated in a flat alluvial plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, causing these waterways as they drop in elevation to meander along forming distributaries, before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Using the correct interpretation of barge, that is a vessel that is not self-propelled, these Arabs use their pole-propelled, flat-bottomed barges through the marshes as the only way to travel in that large, 7,300 square mile wetland.
A flat-bottomed barge is called a Punt that is propelled by a pole. A traditional punt has no tiller nor any provision for oars, sails, or motor; instead it is propelled and directed with a 12’ to 16’ pole. These barges are now manufactured for sport and pleasure in Europe, but the concept of the flat-bottomed barge has been used in Mesopotamia for 5,000 years
While punt and punting are modern terms, the flat-bottom boat requiring poling to propel it forward, has been used for millennia. These barges could be large enough to hold animals and cargo, as they have in Mesopotamia since early B.C. times, with smaller barges used for individual or family transportation through the marshes.
Top Left: Punting is a social activity today, especially in England; Top Right: However, in the Mesopotamia marshes it has been the only way of travel for three mellennia; Bottom: Two Marsh Arabs moving through the marsh waterways, using poles for propulsion
In addition, the Jaredite barges they used to sail across the ocean were enclosed (Ether 2:17), and large enough to hold the numbers in the Jaredite colony. And looking at the numbers of Jaredite adults, it would have been either 13 or 26 depending upon whether the number mentioned in Ether 6:16 was the total number, or just the number of men (not counting their wives) as is often stated in biblical and Book of Mormon numbers. They also had families before they left Mesopotamia (Ether 1:37; 2:1; 6:16). Assuming the number of overall families was 24 (22 plus Jared and his brother), and assuming that each family had four children (the Jaredites obviously had very large families) that would make the total embarking in the barges about 120, or about three families per barge, and about 15 people per barge, plus animals, food and cargo. Since Jared and his brother had 34 children between them, or an average of 17 each, it is possible that they had more children before leaving Mesopotamia. If the number was 8 children each, there were 216 people boarding the barges, or 3 families each, and 27 people per barge.

No comments:

Post a Comment